Saturday 14 March 2015

Theatre review: Closer

It's a busy year for Patrick Marber - he's got two shows coming up at the National, not to mention constantly turning up on celebrity editions of Only Connect, despite appearing to have no idea how the game worksPUSHING THE BUZZER MEANS YOU HAVE TO ANSWER THE QUESTION, IT DOESN'T GIVE YOU AN EXTRA COUPLE OF MINUTES TO CHAT ABOUT IT. You know Victoria Coren-Mitchell wouldn't stand for that shizzle if it wasn't for charity. Meanwhile, David Leveaux revives Marber's misanthropic four-piece Closer at the Donmar Warehouse. Obituary writer and failed novelist Dan (Oliver Chris) has been going out with the much younger, ex-stripper Alice (Rachel Redford) for a couple of years when he meets, and instantly falls for, photographer Anna (Nancy Carroll.) When she rejects him Dan vindictively sets her up with a horny dermatologist he finds in a sex chatroom.

It backfires when Larry (Rufus Sewell) turns out not to be all that creepy after all, and a couple of years on he and Anna are married. But there's still a connection between her and Dan, and the two couples can never seem to stop betraying each other.

So Closer is a couple of hours, covering a few years, of two men and two women whose relationships are constantly reconfiguring, and who regardless of whom they're officially going out with at any one time, are invariably cheating on them with someone else in the love-square. It's about love, lust and truth, but it takes a deliberately contrary view to all of these - love as a destructive force that's the opposite of happiness, telling the truth as a cruelty, and lust as the purest impulse in the end.

Leveaux's production looks great in a design by Bunny Christie (although in a recurring issue at the Donmar, the staging makes some of the action hard to see from the side seating banks - I was right at the end of a row so I basically mentally checked out during the silent chatroom scene, as I couldn't see any of the text that was being projected.) The constant partner-swapping, and agonising over that partner-swapping, threatens to get dull after the interval, but Leveaux just about avoids this.

It's a strong cast, but they need to be to flesh out Marber's very cold characters. Closer is a watchable play but a deeply problematic one - for all the talk of uncontrollable love there's little to show what's meant to be inspiring this, as the quartet never feel entirely fleshed out, only their pettiness and cruelty really on display most of the time. It's a great production, but one of a play that ultimately feels like two-and-a-half hours of bile. Oliver Chris gets his top off though, so *scales gesture*.

Closer by Patrick Marber is booking until the 4th of April at the Donmar Warehouse.

Running time: 2 hours 25 minutes including interval.

1 comment:

  1. Misanthropic. I wholly agree. (And I thought he just couldn't write men.)